Downward Dog Days of Summer
July’s Yoga Pose of the Month — Downward Dog
During the hottest days of the year, the energy of summer radiates at a high vibration. Honor the hot, fiery external climate and ignite your inner connection to the sun with one of yoga’s most popular poses — Downward Dog.
Philosophy & Origin
Downward-facing dog pose, known as Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit, is one of yoga’s most widely recognized poses. It’s part of the traditional Sun Salutation (Suryanamaskar) sequence and a quintessential pose in many modern yoga classes.
Pronounced: AH-doh MOO-kah shvah-NAHS-anna
“Adho” = Downward / “Mukha” = Face / “Svana” = Dog
Downward dog is great as a transitional pose or a stimulating full-body stretch on its own.
Downward Dog Pose: Step-By-Step
Begin on your hands and knees. Shoulders should be stacked directly over your wrists and hips stacked directly over your knees.
Spread your fingers wide and press firmly into your palms and knuckles. With your hands rooted into the mat, exhale as you tuck your toes and lift your knees off the floor.
Lengthen your tailbone away from the floor and lift your sitting bones toward the ceiling. Gently begin to straighten your legs, but do not lock your knees. Firm your outer thighs and roll your upper thighs slightly inward.
Press the floor away from you as you draw your shoulder blades down your back and broaden across your collarbones. Keep your ears in line with your arms and sink your heels onto or down toward the floor.
Stay anywhere from 1 to 3 minutes. To come out of the downward dog, lower your knees to the mat on an exhale and rest in child’s pose.
Watch a demo here.
Bonus Pose: Three-legged Down Dog
From downward dog, step both feet together to touch. Inhale and extend your right leg up and back. Keep your hips level with one another (avoiding the tendency to tilt the pelvis sideways to lift the leg higher). Flex your right foot (toes pointing down toward the ground) and extend long through your lifted heel.
Remain here with hips level if this feels like enough. To move even deeper, bend your right knee and lift it high toward the ceiling. Tilt your pelvis and lift your thigh high so that your right hip stacks directly above your left hip. Drop your right foot across the back of your body and keep your standing leg firm.
Keep your arms active and your breathing stable and smooth. Hold for 5-10 breaths and exhale as you release, lowering your right foot to the mat.
Repeat the pose on the opposite side.
If you’re feeling confident on one foot, add Tree Pose to your practice.
Adjustments & Modifications
- Place a yoga block between your inner thighs and press it back to feel greater extension in your spine.
- If you find it difficult to engage your quads, it might mean that your hands and feet are too close together. Try walking your feet back a bit to create more length and space in your torso.
- For a more restorative version of downward-facing dog, place a block under your head and release all tension in your neck and shoulders.
Also try Bound Angel Pose for a counter stretch.
Your heels don’t need to touch the floor. Your heels might touch the floor in down dog, and they might not. There are a number of reasons your heels won’t connect with the ground — tight hamstrings or calves, bone structure, or even the length of your Achilles tendon. Focus more on how the pose feels than how it might look to others.
Engage your lower belly. Imagine that someone is pulling back on your hips as you draw your belly slightly in toward your spine.
Avoid locking your elbows. Flatten your hands into your mat and draw your shoulder blades down your back toward your hips. Take a slight bend in your elbows and engage the muscles of your arms to avoid hyperextension.
Soften the back of your neck. Gently nod or shake your head to release any tension in your neck and shoulders.
Downward dog is a pose that warms, stretches, and strengthens the entire body — the perfect way to honor your (hot, sticky) self on these long, hot days of summer.